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    Consciousness

    Consciousness is at the source of everything we do and are. It is the first and most essential aspect of "being", and yet we seldom venture to look into the source of consciousness itself.

    The beauty of working to increase the depth of our Consciousness is that it provides a means to investigate the very processes by which we perceive.

    As we uncover a clearer and more authentic experience of being, we become open to whole new dimensions of our bodies, our studies in movement and interaction, and every other endeavor we engage.

    Such openness often leads to insight, and insight leads to leaps in ability.

    Cheng Hsin Consciousness is pursued through two powerful avenues: Contemplation, and Ontology, or Experiential Inquiry.

    With contemplation we learn and develop the ability to focus our attention as well as open our minds for the purpose of becoming directly conscious of whatever question we are engaging - Who am I? What is life? What is communication? or any other question we might ask.

    In our experiential inquiry we use facilitated dialogues, interactive exercises, diads, communication, guided meditations, contemplation, and other means to investigate, confront, study, and experience subjects ranging from the nature and purpose of a self or the design and structure of mind and perception, to effective communication, the nature of intention, or the absolute nature of Being. Our ontological approach is one of rolling up the sleeves and diving into our experience to investigate through a variety of methods and discover what it is all about.

    The Founder - on Consciousness

    Peter Ralston has pursued a direct consciousness of the truth with a passionate determination for more than 40 years. He sought out and studied with the world's most demonstrably skilled teachers. His exceptional commitment, intense meditation and open inquiry developed profound levels of skill and understanding. Intense contemplation resulted in many enlightenment experiences regarding the nature of self and reality which greatly influenced his study.

    In the following interview Peter answers a few questions that may help shed some light on his background and perspective:

    How did you get involved in this kind of work?

    From an early age I've had a passion for unearthing the truth of everything I encountered. I didn't want to take anything on hearsay. Fortunately, I was also very curious and willing to look into things on my own. In martial studies this translated into the drive to go past rote learning and look into the principles underlying movement and relationship. When greater levels of skill began to emerge, I knew I was on the right track. As my focus shifted from more from martial studies to consciousness, I realized that the most important pursuit for me was to have a personal experience of the essential nature of reality. I wasn't sure what that would look like, or how to achieve it, but I was driven to investigate, contemplate, and experience for myself the truth of existence. You see, I held that it was really possible that somehow my consciousness could grasp, could awaken to the way things really are, the essential nature of "being."

    How did you know you weren't experiencing things the way they really are already?

    Before anyone directly experiences something -- prior to what Zen people call an "enlightenment" experience where you become directly conscious of the true nature of Being -- it's possible to recognize that "Yes, this experience I'm having is indirect, I don't actually know what anything is. I don't know what I am. I don't know how I came to be. I don't know what being actually is." Of course, normally we are far more comfortable with the assumption that we're experiencing everything just the way it is. But if it never occurs to us that there is much we don't know, and that what we do know is somehow not the whole story, we would never even try to go deeper. When the possibility of a direct consciousness really comes up for us, that's when we recognize we aren't conscious of the true nature of anything.

    Talk about your first enlightenment experience.

    I'd just finished several days of intense contemplation and I was still at the meditation hall the following morning. I was sitting contentedly against the wall in a sunlit loft when I had the most remarkable experience. Just as suddenly as a bubble bursting, my mind opened up to a new level of consciousness and I felt my familiar sense of self completely dissolve. It seemed like my awareness both expanded and merged with what had always been true: the very essence of "being." It was unlike anything I'd ever known, and no description could ever do justice to the experience. I was in that instant clearly and absolutely conscious of who and what I am.

    In this moment a deep sense of peace came over me, and also an unexpected feeling of freedom. No joy I had experienced before could even remotely compare to this awakening. My mind was freed of burdens that I didn’t know I'd had. Assumptions about reality and limitations in my awareness just dissolved. My sense of self was . . . open and without location. A sense of calm, lightness, and ease saturated my being and I felt I had at last become one with my real self. All inner turmoil evaporated. All doubt and struggle fell away. It was the most extraordinary moment of my life.

    It was just one moment that didn't last?

    The reverberations from that moment never really stopped. The realizations of that one instant continued to permeate every part of my awareness -- my whole sense of self changed. Having so much assumption fall away in one moment had, in effect, recreated my consciousness as a blank slate. I was opened up as never before. Suddenly I had room to experience new insights that would previously have been overwhelmed by a lifelong accumulation of beliefs and conclusions. I could see that I had been trapped within my own perceptions, my own logic, my own knowledge and experience. The freedom I gained from this touched every aspect of my life.

    In what ways?

    Well, for one thing, my ability to learn was completely transformed. Discovery became a real possibility - not something to be left to other people, but a joyful exercise to be taken on for myself. I investigated my intellect, awareness, perceptions, beliefs and assumptions. I explored my body, movement, interaction, and relationships. And from such investigation, many more insights arose. As time passed I began to find new abilities and ways of thinking that I'd never imagined possible.

    Issues of self-esteem and self-image had become irrelevant. Because my experience was authentically based, I had, without effort, gained a natural authenticity. I didn't have to pretend anything or doubt myself. Limitations of self-doubt gave way to self-acceptance and an openness to whatever is true. Relationships turned from acting out patterns of behavior to seeking out an honest and real expression from myself and others. I was empowered to investigate and clearly see aspects of being human that had previously seemed beyond reach, except as hearsay or belief. I came to understand the nature of belief itself, and discovered that the very foundation of my sense of reality and life was but a collection of assumptions and misconceptions. Anytime I would get free of any of these proved to be very powerful.